This essay discusses the "Obligation" theme in Hamlet.
Each member of society, under every circumstance, has obligations they must fulfill; fulfillment is not always achieved. Every man who has had a woman he loves pass away feels an overwhelming power to prove to the skeptics that he did in fact love her. As the next in line, a prince who may or may not want to be the king feels it is his duty to pass the position on to someone he feels is worthy. The spawn of a slain man has a powerful force pushing them to avenge their father. The character Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play fulfills his obligations and therefore deserves our admiration.
Hamlet is a teenager dealing with many problems. He is driven by numerous motivations and often acts on impulse. When he hears Laertes speaking of how much he loved his sister Ophelia, his competitive nature arises and Hamlet feels he must prove his love for her as well. He challenges the strength of Laertes’ love for Ophelia saying “I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers Could not, with all their quantity of love, Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?”(V. i. 263). In front of everyone, Hamlet proves his love for her and at the same time putting down Laertes’. Hamlet is constantly filled with emotion, and when he feels something, he acts upon it, making it natural for him to achieve feats necessary to himself, unlike attaining the title of King.
Throughout the play Hamlet shows no signs of wanting to possess the title of King, just to remove Claudius of it. Hamlet, of course, has kingly blood in him most likely from generations past. After Claudius is dead, Hamlet is rightfully the king. As he dies from the poison in his veins, he makes his last words “…But I do prophesy the election lights On Fortinbras; he has my dying voice; So tell him, with the occurents, more and less, which have solicited. The rest is silence.” (V. ii. 348). Hamlet tells Horatio that he approves of Fortinbras’ rule, and that Horatio must tell Fortinbras of the events, no matter how big or small, that just took place. Although Hamlet is not wearing a crown or sitting on a throne, he is the king from the time that Claudius is dead to the time that he himself dies. He has one thing to worry about and that is who his predecessor is. Throughout the play, Hamlet has always held Fortinbras in high regard speaking of how he controls a great army. He decides that Fortinbras is suitable for the position and makes it his duty to communicate this with his dying words. After all, he has nothing else on his plate for he finished doing what he lived for.
When a young man’s father is killed, that young man can become enraged and filled with hatred. Hamlet is certain that Claudius killed his father, and has a filial obligation to avenge him. Claudius, trying to reassure Hamlet that it is merely the cycle of life, exclaims, “…you must know, your father lost a father, That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term To do obsequious sorrow…” (I. i. 89). Ironically enough, it is the King who brings up the term filial obligation, which may perhaps be the cause of his own demise. It can be argued that Hamlet only got the idea of seeking revenge for his father’s death after Claudius spoke of the filial obligation, but by the end of the play Hamlet succeeds and he confirms Claudius did kill his father, and he rightfully kills him, another notch on Hamlet’s belt.
Hamlet is put into a situation no teenager should have to go through. He has many variables in his life, which ultimately decide how his life will play out. He does his best to manipulate them but eventually his life comes to an end at a very young age, luckily with a lot of meaning attached to it. Hamlet achieved everything he set out for, fulfilled his obligations, and did the right thing each time and for that reason he is a hero.